Yannick Murphy's third book, Here They Come, follows a 13-year-old girl living with her eccentric family in 1970s New York City.
Why do you often write in the voice of children and adolescents?
At that age, you can say what you're seeing but not know how to explain it because you don't have the perspective. All that experience gets stored and later you have years to rehash it... and remember it the wrong way.
So is much of Here They Come autobiographical?
It's very autobiographical. A lot of the book takes place over a couple of years at the most—so it's condensed. But, yes, I did go through a lot of what happens in the book
So you can bend spoons with your mind?
Well, not to sound too strange, but—my family was watching Uri Geller, a psychic, on television and he was bending spoons with his mind and I could do it, too. Thank god I can't do it anymore because I would be really weird.
You've published with Knopf and Houghton Mifflin; how did you decide to go with McSweeney's for Here They Come?
My agent, Judy Heiblum, sent it to a lot of people who just didn't know how to react to it, and the McSweeney's people said, "We love it." The editor, Eli Horowitz, knew that I was concerned about rewriting and having it not feel as organic as the first time, so he left me enough room to feel as if I could go back in and have the revisions flow naturally. I wish every writer could have that kind of fulfilling experience with an editor.
Your prose is so lush, and a powerful part of the experience of reading the novel. What do you think great prose should do?
The reader should get a sense that they're going somewhere with you, and it could be a really dangerous place. They'll go because you hold them by the hand and say, "I don't know what to expect either, but I have to take you there." That can be conveyed through the language itself. I think great prose comes when the writer says, "I'm not going to use regular language, and you, reader, will become awakened because I stayed up all night writing this, because I just couldn't stop.
What are you working now?
I'm working on a fictional account of the life of Mata Hari. I'm interested in how she got to be a spy. I've got a children's book titled AHWOOOOOOOO!, about a little wolf who learns how to howl, coming out this June from Clarion Books.